We Need to Talk About Brexit

We Need to Talk About Brexit

It’s been hard to avoid the B word in Britain over the last few years. The sound of “Brexit” has taught me where the exits are in many a room frequented during this period. It’s not that Brexit isn’t important – it is – it’s because both sides are so entrenched in their beliefs there is no “Brexit Debate” nowadays. It’s either a well-rehearsed rhetoric on the virtues of either Leave or Remain.

For this reason, it’s a subject I’ve avoided on social media and never thought would grace these pages. Then a Twitter friend asked for my take. He wanted a genuine insight, not a rehash.

What followed was a measured debate on both sides. Something that hasn’t occurred during polite conversation in this country since the referendum result. For that, we can thank the politicians and news reporters. The take on Brexit has been skewed from the start and has continued ever since. Dazzler on Twitter had found the key to the problem: All I hear is negativity, and I am concerned.

The term Project Fear exists for a reason. This isn’t a cheap trick to throw scorn on Remain from the start. Fear politics is en vogue at the moment. It’s the one fashion accessory every budding politician wants to be seen with. Leave loved Fear in its campaign during the referendum and Remain ensured it didn’t go a day without work since.

All Fear does is give politicians a big out card. There’s no need to solve problems when you can let Fear into the room. There’s no need to present strong, undeniable evidence when Fear’s around. Hell, you can sell feelings and predictions as economic certainties once everyone’s familiar with good ol’ Fear.

But it wasn’t fear that got the Brexit ball rolling with momentum. It wasn’t even Nigel Farage (though his diary probably disagrees). It was the disenchanted and the disenfranchised. For too long, people could see the 1% were swallowing the world’s riches while the majority struggled on. From financial crash to years of austerity, with no end in sight to clear a national debt that meant nothing to them.

Perhaps the EU became a symbol of this structure. Sat pulling the strings of governments to keep its own agenda ticking over. This, of course, doesn’t paint an entirely fair picture but when people feel they’re losing control they turn against those with power. Staying in the EU kept everything the same, with the coffers of the 1% swelling each year.

The status quo needed to be broken. It isn’t working wherever you sit on the socio-economic spectrum. The rise of far right, and now far left extremists are a product of a broken model.

The status quo has become a breeding ground for hatred.

This ignorance has been perpetuated on both sides. Remainers assume those that voted Leave must be racist, Leave think Remainers have rose-tinted glasses and can’t see a country in decline. And every excuse or assumption in between. The truth is: the majority of Leave aren’t xenophobic and Remainers can see failings at home and in the EU but still believe it’s the best model we have to fix things.

The problem is, it’s been a model in play long enough to tackle many of the issues facing the world today and instead has become part of the problem. Leaving the EU removes the government of the day’s first go-to excuse: we have to because of Brussels. It gives the public a greater degree of transparency over decision making, implementation of laws, the management of change. By turning Brexit into a doomsday device, it gives the next three or four governments a new excuse: we’re suffering the consequences of Brexit. This one can run and run, “We’d love to do what you suggest, but we can’t . . . because of Brexit.”

At this point, it’s no longer about the pros and cons of the EU. That was the debate before the referendum. Talk of a second undermines democracy and the viewpoint of those who felt alienated in the first place. If Remainers are hellbent on discussing the virtues of the EU, they should read And the Weak Suffer What They Must? first. When you see why the EU was formed, how it needs to maintain key surplus to deficit nation strategies, the requirement to recycle debt for its single currency, and the propensity to break its own rules for preferred nations, you’ll begin to wonder if leaving isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Remain claim Leave voters didn’t understand what they were voting for. They did: change. It’s Remain that seems to miss their own point. They are voting to stay in a system that supports a single currency the majority of them would vote against joining. It’s like taking out a gym membership but flatly refusing to use the equipment then becoming incensed with changes at the club.

While we’re doing analogies, there’s another doing the rounds about a man ordering fish in a restaurant. I won’t bore you with the entire play, the brief version is after several arguments involving different chefs and a long delay, the man would like to be asked if he still wants the fish. That’s a fine analogy for a service. But the British public didn’t buy anything; they took part in a democratic vote.

To agree with the analogy, you’re saying to those in power around the globe it’s okay to ignore mandates if you argue long enough and make more noise than the initial majority.

Any argument stating that people have changed their mind as more information comes to light is flawed. The argument against Brexit has been a relentless multi-year campaign. The Leave side became largely inactive following the referendum result. The questions Remainers have been asking now, should have formed their narrative before the vote. Much of the evidence that’s followed is subjective – much like the Leave campaign was.

It’s proven that if you tell a human something enough times, it begins to believe it. The Remain campaign has banged the same tune for over two years, people have listened and logged the Fear. Doubt has crept in and pushed democracy aside, for nothing more than feelings.

There is no hard evidence for what follows Brexit. Economists are making predictions. The same type of voices that failed to predict the 2008 financial crisis. The same people that have idly sat by while personal debts are now higher than 2008. The same experts that bandaged up a fatal axe wound to the global monetary system with a plaster and pushed it out of the door for one last go around.

The UK’s imminent departure from the EU upsets this apple cart. They were prepared for the party to end at some point – and God only knows what they have concocted next – but they wanted to milk the current system a little longer. When the cards come crashing down a second time, they want it to be a controlled explosion.

The truth is, there’ll be no catastrophic event when the UK leaves the Union, any recession – home or abroad – will be down to laziness from those in power. Germany has enough deficit nations it can leach from; Britain isn’t short of countries with free trade deals to explore. Yes, some industries will struggle and others will collapse. This isn’t the sign a bad Brexit scenario, it is a sign of the times that’s always been a factor. Workers have to reskill or look for employment in new areas.

When coal mines shut down in Wales, no one can expect Silicon Valley to relocate. Just as the country needs to envisage fresh scenarios, the individual has to recalibrate their position in the changing landscape.

Brexit isn’t bad, it’s something that requires change. How the country’s ruling party and the people within it adapt will determine whether it’s good. The responsibility is with humans, not abstract terms. The time for mudslinging and Fear has long since passed, there’s only room for positive contributions now to a situation you may personally dislike or favour.

Brexit needs to happen to restore faith in democracy. To force politicians to work for a result and sack Agent Fear. Brexit needs to happen so we can abandon excuses and look for reasons to make it work. And if it doesn’t, learn from the experience and explore the reasons why. Brexit needs to happen so we can prove we’re not xenophobic and wish to invite the entire world to our shores, not just the select members of the EU.

Brexit needs to happen so we can move forward from a messy breakup and learn to think positive again.


Brexit and the Premier League

Brexit and the Premier League

Britain has been gripped with post-EU Referendum fall-out. Markets have panicked, the pound has fallen, and the Prime Minister has resigned. All this seems secondary when you consider the real burning issue: How will Brexit affect the Premier League.

One certainty surrounding Brexit is everything is uncertain. There’s no clear front-runner for the Tory leadership, when the fragmented state of British politics is taken into account. While many mention Boris Johnson as a likely candidate, there are those that seem to think he has too many agents working against him. Theresa May is emerging as a front-runner and she was a member of the Remain campaign.

Depending on who takes the hot-seat will shape the nature of EU negotiations. A hard line Brexiter will be less likely to concede allowances, like continued freedom of movement for access to the common market (albeit with higher tariffs and penalties). But that option is still, at this moment in time, on the table. If that was to be the outcome, all the potential scenarios about to be mentioned, are null and void.

The alternative is a phased exit from the single market, in tandem with workers’ rights from EU countries. This is where the Premier League braces itself for a paradigm shift.

The most obvious change, and one that would be immediately recognisable, is how EU players would no longer be allowed to ply their trade in the Premier League without obtaining a work permit, like players, say, from South American countries currently apply for.

Players with a work permit are viewed as exceptional and are able to enhance the league based on their international experience. The better the ranking of the nation, the less games the player needs to have featured in for the national side. For example, countries ranked in the top ten, require the player to have featured in 30% of matches or more in the last two years. Moving in blocks of ten, the appearances required rise from 45% to 60% and finally 75% respectively.

If a player is refused, they can appeal. The Home Office then take into account the size of the transfer fee. An outstanding player may come from a country blessed with world class talent, so has rarely featured on the international stage, while still being of the highest calibre. This point is backed up with the size of his contract and the weekly wage.

Also, if the player has featured in many Champions League games, it sheds favourable light on his case.

However, the Premier League cannot gain special treatment compared to other industries, inevitably the number of European-based imports would decrease if EU players became no different from nationalities based outside of this continent. Maybe there’d be several years of easing in new rules but eventually the law would be the same across the board.

At this point the star foreign players would be more expensive to acquire. That strikes fear into club owners and fans will feel their team is being ripped off. But perhaps it will be better to avoid the current Average Player Tax the league endures, bringing in filler to gain access to the rare outstanding performer. Instead clubs will pay a premium for a premium player, minus the non-descript faces.

When the Premier League was new, it managed to pull in star names. Back then they felt special as they were, to start with, one-offs. Since then it has been easier to lure the best in the world over en masse. In doing so, the league’s reputation has risen to such a degree that nothing will prevent players feeling its lure.

It isn’t about to turn into the Scottish Premier League from yesteryear, with a few massive names in a field of averageness. The money alone that the Premier League generates means it can endure any rule change to the eligibility of its workers.

The FA will see it as a blessing in disguise. The lazy scouting of top clubs, that see them take a risk on an average foreign player with an EU passport rather than look in the domestic lower leagues, will slowly draw to a halt. And current champions Leicester have demonstrated, there is talent to be found further down the leagues.

Any extra premium clubs pay for the stand-out performers will also be offset by an unexpected easing of financial burdens. Currently too many top teams are reluctant to use their youth academies. Part of this problem comes from the condition that too much choice is a bad thing. When pruned to a more manageable number, the human mind finds it easier to make correct choices.

The pruning that will take place in the academies will be the process of no longer filling them with youngsters from around the globe that either have EU citizenship or want to attain it. Instead, British players will fill the ranks. Those that are clearly the best won’t have to fight with high numbers of imports or pointless loan moves across the continent. They will be used or released.

Eventually the domestic youth talent will become good enough, and trusted, for the first team. This will save clubs millions each year on players that act as squad players.

The English national team will have greater choice of top flight players. The figure is currently less than 30% in Premier League first teams. This advantage means the FA won’t fight the Premier League’s case for special treatment.

Like much of the Brexit debate, there has been a lot of scaremongering.

Just like Britain won’t return to the dark ages following exit from the EU, the Premier League won’t lose its place as one of the top destinations in Europe for players to perform. The best in the world will still come here, and any increase in price needs to be placed into context.

The finances in the Premier League are currently grotesque, a recalibration and reconsideration of where every pound goes isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s long overdue. Instead of being flippant with cash, maybe owners will be mindful of bringing in only the best, remembering it’s the working man in the stands that make it possible.

The Premier League will still thrive after Brexit, don’t let big business and the establishment tell you otherwise.